2023 Hula Bowl: Nine Mountain West Players On All-Star Game Roster
The Orlando-based college football all-star game will feature nine Mountain West football players looking to pursue NFL dreams.
The road to Kansas City begins here for these athletes.
This year’s Hula Bowl will once again take place at UCF’s FBC Mortgage Stadium and, much like last year, many former Mountain West football stars will hope to use that stage as a jumping-off point for their professional aspirations.
Nine players from seven different teams in the conference are listed on the rosters for this year’s game, which has taken place every year since 1946. San Jose State and San Diego State lead the Mountain West cohort with two players apiece, while Fresno State, Nevada, UNLV, Utah State, and Wyoming will each have one athlete in the contest.
The Spartans will be represented by wide receiver Elijah Cooks and cornerback Nehemiah Shelton. Cooks transferred to San Jose State from Nevada and posted the best overall season of his collegiate career with 69 catches for 1,076 yards and ten touchdowns. Meanwhile, Shelton earned an all-conference honorable mention in 2021 and 2022 and finished his Spartans tenure with eight interceptions and 35 passes defended in 44 career games.
For the Aztecs, linebacker Caden McDonald and wide receiver Jesse Matthews will look to put their best feet forward. McDonald earned first-team all-conference honors three times and racked up 160 total tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss, and 12 sacks in 60 career games on the Mesa. Matthews earned a reputation for highlight catches across multiple years as a starter and finished his career with 167 receptions, 2,010 yards, and 15 touchdowns.
Three different Mountain West running backs will also make appearances in the Hula Bowl. Fresno State’s Jordan Mims became a first-team all-conference selection last November for the first time after rushing for 1,372 yards and chipping in 21 catches for 126 yards, totaling a conference-high 19 touchdowns altogether. He’ll be joined by Nevada’s Toa Taua and Utah State’s Calvin Tyler Jr.. Taua finished his Wolf Pack career with 3,997 rushing yards, the fourth-most in program history, and 163 total receptions while Tyler Jr. was a key cog in the Aggies’ run to the 2021 football championship, tallying 2,006 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns across two seasons in Logan.
UNLV linebacker Austin Ajiake will join Shelton and McDonald on the defensive side of the ball after leading the Mountain West with 133 total tackles in the 2022 season, adding 11 tackles for loss, four sacks, and two interceptions. Lastly, Wyoming offensive lineman Eric Abojei was a mainstay on the Cowboys offensive line for four seasons, playing 798 offensive snaps in 2022 while spending time at tackle and guard during his time in Laramie.
The Tunnel To Towers Foundation Hula Bowl will kick off on Saturday, January 14, beginning at 9:00 AM PT/10:00 AM MT. It will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.